Put Your Kids to Work. They’ll Be Glad You Did

I recently read a sweet little book called Growing Up Country, by Carol Bodensteiner. She describes her childhood growing up on a dairy farm in Iowa. What struck me most about her account is how much she enjoyed being challenged with work on the farm. At each age, she “graduated” to harder and harder chores, and it felt like such an achievement to her. Which doesn’t mean she loved all her chores all the time, but like many people who have grown up on farms, they taught her how to work hard and get things done, which comes in handy when you are a grown-up.

Just last night I was talking to a farmer from Kentucky, and he was lamenting how his kids just want to watch TV and play video games… “In Montana by the age of 3 those kids have a rope and a horse and they are put to work.” Slight exaggeration, but not by much. What his comment reminded me is that whether or not we live on a farm, it’s up to us to raise our kids as if we DID live on one. Part of our job as parents is to teach our kids how to get things done, and appreciate the satisfaction of a job well done. Not only does it take some of the chores off our plates, but it also makes for a more functional family.

We all know people who never learned how to work hard, and sometimes it feels like they can drag the whole world down. Here is the truth: We are all fundamentally lazy. But given the right training, encouragement, and reward for hard work (which doesn’t have to be money, it can be praise), we can all be turned into productive—and as a result, happier—people.

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9 Responses to Put Your Kids to Work. They’ll Be Glad You Did

  1. jwkyjk@yahoo.com June 15, 2009 at 9:21 am #

    I share your sentiment exactly,Ican’ count the times I’ve had to help someone do the most simple of chores because they have never had to use their mind to evaluate the task and what has to be done to accomplish it. I am so grayeful for my to some labored childhood but it has put me in good stead for many of the challenges I’ve had in my life,I am so glad that you wrote this item because it has brought back vey fond memories. Thankyou very much,JOHN W. KITCHEN

  2. shelburn June 15, 2009 at 3:06 pm #

    I so agree!! Being taught the basic life skills while growing up could save society much grief. Along with learning to work for the things we want, young people should also be taught the value and use of money.
    It is an art to plan your income to support one’s life and learn what one needs and can afford and what is beyond one’s income and is not needed to live comfortably!
    Back to basics!!

  3. Mattiejane June 15, 2009 at 9:36 pm #

    This is the major issue today! “The Almighty Child Syndrome” where the parent thinks the kids need to just be kids and hang out with the TV or the computer. They need responsibilities or they will fall by the wayside and never be able to balance life between work, relaxation and enjoyment. One needs to learn a work ethic at a very early age or they will be teaching and developing bad habits in their kids. Rooms need to be clean, good habits established around the home and with school work from the get-go. I’d say being firm and strict is the major missing issue with most parents.
    So many college kids are immature and unprepared for the real world because they are having fun….those are the very kids that are burdens to their folks well after graduation. I feel so sorry for these parents when their kids fail to launch… what a nightmare emotionally and financially. It lasts forever! If they won’t comply- put their butts in military school and let the experts straighten them out.

  4. Paula in Fla June 16, 2009 at 9:27 am #

    I agree, too often parents that I know wanted to wait until the kids were 16 to start making them do chores or hae boundaries. You can’t teach them NO at that age. It has to start as soon as they begin to understand. I was always the “mean” parent, but now that mine are 17 and 18 mine are the well adjusted, successful, contributing members of society, while those old friends of ours who gave their kids everything but responsibility are having issues with their getting in trouble at school, in public, not being able to pass basic tests. My kids have told me they are glad they don’t act like some of their former child friends because they see the selfishness and the inability to function.
    That’s also why I never liked those spillproof sippy cups. Noone ever taught their kids to pick them up when they fell or g ot dropped because the didn’t leak, but the kids were never taught to pick it up right away because all cups won’t be like that.

  5. CW June 16, 2009 at 9:47 am #

    Ah, you have touched on a sore spot with me.

    When I was a kid we all worked. It was part of being a family. Chores were divvied up according to who was capable and as the older children grew up and took on outside work for spending money and later rent, the younger ones ( there were six) took over those responsibilities.
    My children have ALWAYS had chores. They earned allowance at a young age for good grades for a term and for helping at the family business. Chores were always expected because daily and weekly duties are part of life and it is a disadvantage to them to dump it on them all at once when they are older. How fair is that?We also instilled that no job is beneath them. Work is work and a job worth doing is worth doing right. When they were very young (before school) when laundry was done they helped sort; whites, lights and brights. They folded wash cloths while the grown-ups folded towels, they sorted socks while the adults folded clothes. If baking or cooking they helped grease and flour pans, or portion out ingredients or wash vegetables. All of them can cook, and well. We all did the yard work together and worked in the garden. When young they helped clear the table( we also always sat down as a family -still do as a matter of fact- and had meals together-) when older they alternated dish night.
    My children , though really adults -two in college- one married, are responsible, hard working adults who know what they need to know to manage their lives. they don’t whine about much and I couldn’t be prouder of them. Unfortunately so many of their peers think they have been treated cruelly. Peers who have been purchased cars, who do not do chores are home, and many who still get allowances. I have also worked with many of this generation’s young adults. They have very little work ethic and are put out much too easily- they are lazy. It is a chronic problem. My kids sometimes feel like a fish out of water; they don’t relate to the spoiled generation and it is at those times that I wonder if perhaps I was behind the times when raising them. I worry that the few who know and are willing to work will be left to support all these lazy people when their parents are no longer around to foot the bill,. Doing the lion’s share of work in the workplace and paying the taxes for those who are unwilling to get a job and manage their own affairs.

  6. J. Wilhelm June 16, 2009 at 12:50 pm #

    I am very thankful that my parents taught me the value of a dollar and how to put in a days work. It came in handy when I was a single parent & had to fix things myself & stretch a dollar. I struggle with fibromyalgia & can’t do what I would like to do & get frustrated with those that are healthy & won’t work. I taught my kids what I learned & teachers & employers exclaim over what hardworkers my teenagers are. I pay them with praise & enthusiasm when they complete difficult tasks. I wish more parents would teach their children the pride that comes with accomplishment & helping others.

  7. Carol Bodensteiner August 14, 2009 at 3:33 pm #

    Thanks for reading my book, Maria. As I raised my son in town, I wished time and again that he could have enjoyed being raised on a farm as I was. But we had a big garden every year, as did his grandparents, so he developed a tie to the land and an admirable work ethic even without the cows and pigs and chickens. When he bought his first home, one of the first things he did was put in a garden. Today he still gardens, eating, canning and freezing the produce. And he’ll be passing those values and the pleasure of work on to his daughter. He makes me proud.

  8. ISABEL FAITH VAZQUEZ September 27, 2009 at 11:53 am #

    you should make farm towns or farm vill for kids so kids can not go on those because of face book and its for parents FROM ISABEL FAITH

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